Governor Cooper Issues Order to Prohibit Utility Shut-Offs and Late Fees, Provides Guidance on Eviction Restrictions and Urges Financial Relief for Individuals and Businesses
On March 31, 2020, Governor Cooper signed Executive Order 124, which prohibits utility shut-offs, late and reconnection fees. This Order also provides guidance about evictions and encourages telecommunications providers, banks, and mortgage services to exercise flexibility with their customers. These orders will remain in place for 60 days.
When does this Order go into effect, and when does it expire?
This Executive Order is effective on March 31, 2020. It will remain in effect for sixty days or until adjusted by a superseding Executive Order. An Executive Order rescinding the State of Emergency in North Carolina will rescind this Executive Order.
What protections does this EO provide to residential utility customers?
The Executive Order provides reasonable protections to residential utility customers in light of the COVID-19 emergency. The Order addresses the following:
- Prohibits utilities from shutting off people’s electricity, natural gas, and water service for Nonpayment.
- Prohibits utilities from billing or collecting any fees, penalties, or interest for late or untimely payment.
- Directs utilities to give residential customers at least six months to pay outstanding bills without owing interest fees.
- Reminds customers they are responsible for paying bills for utility services received.
- Requires utilities to inform residential customers of important provisions in the Executive Order.
Why are these utility-customer protections needed?
Because of the Stay at Home Order, many North Carolina residents are at home and need access to electricity, water, and natural gas service. These services will help ensure that residents will be able to wash hands regularly and follow other best practices for safety and hygiene.
What utilities are covered by this Executive Order?
This Order covers utilities that provide electricity, natural gas, water, or wastewater services, as well as those that provide a combination of these services to residential customers.
Does this mean I don’t have to pay my electricity, natural gas, or water bills?
No. All customers are still responsible for paying their utility bills.
Can I have more time to pay off my bills?
Utilities will offer extended repayment plans that allow residential customers at least six months to pay unpaid bills without owing interest charges. This six-month period will apply to outstanding bill payments accumulated during the effective period of this Executive Order plus 120 days.
Can utility providers charge me late fees?
As of March 31, 2020, no utility may bill or collect any fee, charge, penalty, or interest for a late or otherwise untimely payment.
To which types of utility customers does the Executive Order apply?
This Executive Order applies to residential customers.
What is the guidance on eviction restrictions?
The guidance in Governor Cooper’s Executive Order supports the Chief Justice’s action on eviction.
What about relief for individuals and businesses?
This order does not relieve customers of loan payments due. However, it urges financial institutions, including banks and mortgage lenders, to implement relief measures for individuals and businesses experiencing financial hardships due to COVID-19.
Source: Executive Order 124 FAQs